Find your people.

Whitney —  March 17, 2015 — Leave a comment

I cried on Christmas Eve. I was at the 11pm service at the church I grew up in — the one Christmas tradition I love and uphold — and I ugly cried. The truth is I don’t love the holidays. In fact, I kind of hate them. And I swear I’m not usually that cynical, but the holidays come with so much pressure and so many schedules, and frankly, I enjoy the tailgates we plan and the suppers around the fire that we don’t plan so much more than the forced celebrations. But I love Christmas Eve service. And over the years, it has evolved beyond a simple tradition. It’s become a safe place and a touchstone, where I can take a step back and see where I am and what I need and what’s going right or terribly wrong and where I stand mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

When I got to church this past Christmas Eve, I was already a little frazzled, and I spent most of the service holding back tears. Our pastor opened his sermon by asking if anyone remembered what happened on October 14, 1992…the day that Sid slid and the Braves won the National League pennant. And that was a pretty weird opening line because the Braves winning the pennant on October 14, 1992, though I didn’t know the exact date, is my first full memory.

I was in bed with my mom. My dad was downstairs ironing his shirt, as he did every evening. I had fallen asleep — I was 5 — but I woke to Daddy yelling and cheering. I opened my eyes and saw Sid Bream lumbering around the bases with his mustache flaring. Sid slid, the throw from Barry Bonds in left field was slightly off the mark and somehow — somehow — Sid was safe. “He is… SAFE! BRAVES WIN BRAVES WIN BRAVES WIN!” [True story: I just looked up Skip’s call of that play to link here, and it brought tears to my eyes. The Braves really were the fist thing I consciously loved in this world, and it breaks my heart all over again every time I think about them abandoning Atlanta, but that’s a different story for a different day.] And here’s the video, but don’t kid yourself, Skip’s call is the best. I’ll forever be grateful for that base hit, Frankie Cabrera.

And anyway, as soon as Terry started talking about the Braves and Frankie and Sid and Skip, I knew I was supposed to be there. I knew this spot and this sermon and these tears I was struggling so hard to hold in were for me, even if I didn’t understand them.

After communion, I knelt at the alter as I always do, and I lost it. And the most frustrating part was I didn’t know why. I didn’t know why I was so sad and confused. So I stayed there, on my knees, eyes closed, hands clutched together and talked to God about it. I told Him I just didn’t know. I thought I had had a good year. I had tried hard to be better, and here I was still feeling alone and lost, and I just didn’t know what else to do. “Show me,” I prayed. “Show me what to do next.”

Not to ruin the suspense, but God showed me my people. It wasn’t some revelation. Nothing big happened. But I asked for guidance, and He shined a light on the brilliant and breathtaking people in my life who somehow happen to like me, and I’ve basically spent the last three months being astounded by them. By their candor and humor and wisdom and trust and courage.

And so that super long, meandering, self-indulgent prologue was really just to tell you this: I have really great friends. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude for them. Truly. I have no idea how I got so lucky. But I am. And not just because they are good to me — but man, oh man, they are — but because I am also good for them. And I trust myself to be good for them. I have no idea what’s going on in my life right now — real talk: everything is going to look vastly different in six months — and I should be terrified. Every now and then, I am. But most of the time, I’m ok. Most of the time, I’m confident that things will work out however they need to, and in the mean time, I’m content with being right here. With my people. For my people. Being useful and helpful and fulfilled. And I am supposed to be here. I believe that with all of my heart.

I am in this particular place so that Friend A can cry over coffee about her awful first interview. I am here in this particular moment so that Friend B can have a sounding board when her ex unsettles her. I am here in this particular space so that Friend C has a long phone conversation to occupy his evening and all-day texts to vent about the day and quote-filled emails to remind him he is never alone. I am here to gawk over Friend D’s engagement ring and start learning how to be a Maid of Honor, and I am here to receive the most encouraging late-night texts from Friend E, who lives 1,500 miles away and still manages to leave me breathless with her words. I am here to run off to the mountains with Friends F and G for a weekend and meet Friend H in South Beach because who makes a better plus one than a best friend?

All of which is to say: if you have one mission in this life, it’s to find your people. And once you do, be good to them. Be patient and kind and cherish your time with them. Soak up your spontaneous Sundays [that end in the year’s first sunburn] doing handstands and back bends in the park. Drink that extra beer. Add one more gift to the birthday pile. Respond at 1am. Eat ice cream on the porch. And before you fall asleep, thank God or the stars or your own good intuition for your people. They make you better and they make you brave.

“But how to find them — the people who will stand with you and hold up your arms or cover your mouth when you should shut up — seems to be the challenge. The people are easier to identify than you may realize — you just follow your path and look around, because the brave ones? They are the ones parallel to you. They are your people.”

Annie F. Downs

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